What is the meaning of Angioedema?
Angioedema is a condition of excess fluid accumulation beneath the skin, mucous membranes, or both. It affects the face, hands, legs, genitals, respiratory tract (larynx), and gastrointestinal tract.
Angioedema of lips and eyes (Periorbital edema) is the most common. Angioedema of tongue and larynx is particularly problematic. Laryngeal edema (swelling of larynx) can lead to death, but edema in the throat and tongue can be equally harmful if they become large.
Angioedema Disease and Its Treatment
Angioedema can also be hereditary. It is a rare automatic dominant condition and affects only 1 in 50,000 people. According to a study, hereditary angioedema affects women more severely than men.
The following article contains some valuable information about angioedema and its treatment.
Types & Causes of Angioedema Disease
Angioedema causes can be divided according to its five types –
- Allergic Angioedema
It is the most common type, and it usually affects people who are allergic to a type of food, medication, pollen, venom or animal donor. In severe cases, there may be a serious allergic reaction known as Anaphylaxis. The neck may swell, making it difficult for the patient to breathe. Blood pressure may drop suddenly. This is a medical emergency. This type of angioedema is not long-term. As soon as the person identifies which item is causing an allergic reaction, they can avoid it.
- Idiopathic Angioedema
No specific cause of these could be ascertained. However, certain factors such as anxiety or stress, general infection, high or low temperature or excessive stress exercise are thought to induce this type of angioedema and may show symptoms within an hour of exposure to the factor.
- Drug-induced Angioedema
Certain medications such as ‘ACE inhibitors, a high blood pressure or hypertension medicine, and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory category drugs (NSAIDs) can also induce angioedema. This type is called drug-induced angioedema.
- Hereditary Angioedema
This happens when your body is unable to produce blood proteins called C-1 esterase inhibitors in adequate amounts that cause the blood fluids to accumulate in the tissue and cause swelling. This condition is rare and runs genetically.
- Acquired Angioedema
The symptoms of acquired angioedema are similar to those of hereditary angioedema. But you won’t get it unless you are over 40 years old. It affects people with weak immune systems. It does run hereditary. This is also a rare type.
The main symptom of angioedema is swelling that develops under the surface of the skin. This swelling occurs due to the accumulation of fluid in the deep layers of the skin. It often affects the hands, feet, eyes, lips or genitals. The inner lining of the neck and intestines may be affected in severe cases.
Angioedema v/s Hives swelling
The swelling is usually noticed suddenly and is more severe than the hives.
This condition can last for 1 to 3 days. Before the swelling, you will first notice a bump from inside the skin in the affected area. There is no itchiness in the swollen area and the color of the skin does not change either.
However, if people with allergic or idiopathic angioedema develop urticaria, then itching and redness of the skin may occur.
Angioedema may also cause other symptoms, such as-
- Hot or painful sensations in swollen areas
- Swelling of the inner part of the neck, trachea and tongue, making it difficult to breathe.
- Swelling of the transparent layer of cells covering the white part of the eye, which affects vision.
People with hereditary angioedema may experience the following symptoms-
- Abdominal pain caused by swelling of the stomach and intestines, which can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Swelling of the bladder or urinary tract, which can cause bladder problems and difficulty urinating.
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Medication is the main treatment for angioedema, although many people recover without treatment in a few days.
Allergic and idiopathic angioedema are usually treated in the same way by using a combination of antihistamines and corticosteroids to relieve swelling.
Antihistamines block the effects of a protein called histamine, which is a chemical responsible for the swelling of your skin. Some people may experience insomnia after taking the new type of antihistamine. In such a situation, some tasks such as driving, handling complex heavy machinery, etc. should be avoided by the person. The person may also experience headaches, dry nose, and mouth.
Corticosteroids can block many functions of your immune system.
There are two classes of drugs used to treat hereditary angioedema –
- Anti-angioedema drugs and
- Symptoms Relieving Medication
Some medicines used for angioedema are – Danazol, Tranexamic Acid, Icatibant, and C1-inhibitors.
Natural Treatment for Angioedema
Several effective lifestyle changes can help you if you are suffering from angioedema.
1. Identify the allergen or swelling factors. If you have frequent mild angioedema problems, consider the different foods, drinks, and products you come in contact with. Some of these can provoke angioedema.
Remove the factors that are causing the condition of your angioedema. Factors may include any food you eat, clothes, or any product you use.
2. If you suffer from angioedema due to the medicines taken for any physical condition, discuss it with your doctor.
3. If your whole body swells, you can consider taking a cold bath. Spending more than a few minutes in cold water may give you some relief. This will act like a cold compress in the affected area. But it can also be harmful at times.
In addition to these, it is recommended to take vitamins for the prevention and treatment of angioedema. Sometimes applying oatmeal paste to the affected skin is a good remedy to relieve skin rash and itching.
Angioedema complications involve the followings –
Obstruction in Breathing: If the swelling of your throat and tongue enlarges, it can obstruct the breathing process. In rare cases, it is a medical emergency, which requires treatment or surgery to clear your airway.
Shortness of Breath: Angioedema can cause shortness of breath. This is different from the difficulty in breathing caused by swelling of the tongue and throat. In some cases, angioedema can cause a real change in your respiratory capacity, which requires emergency treatment.
Respiration: If you have angioedema, your immune system can overreact and breathing may stop. This is a life-threatening situation and needs emergency treatment.
The information contained in the above article about angioedema disease is completely for educational purposes and not intended to replace experts’ or doctors’ advice. Approach a specialist for detailed information.
Also Read: Angioedema Disease (Assamese)
1. Which doctor should I approach if I suffer from Angioedema?
A. Approach General Medicine Practitioner.
2. Is it difficult to detect hereditary Angioedema?
A. Yes, since hereditary angioedema is rare, accurate diagnosis can be challenging. A study has shown that 65% of people with this type of angioedema are presumed to have some other disease before they are diagnosed with the disease.
3. Can Angioedema get better on its own?
A. Angioedema usually gets better on its own. But in some cases, treatment may be required.
4. Which food causes Angioedema?
A. Egg, shellfish, milk, soya and peanuts are the most common foods that can provoke angioedema. Lactose, MSG and gluten can be problematic for many individuals.
5. How is angioedema diagnosed?
A. The most common symptom of angioedema is swelling with a red rash beneath the surface of the skin. It can occur on the feet, hands, eyes or lips. In more severe cases, the swelling can spread to other parts of the body.